When something goes wonky, it’s hard to see what good will come of it. After all, there you are, your lovely plan scattered around you… what’s good about that? You liked that plan, maybe loved it. It was so pretty.
It’s so easy to get wedded to an idea. Some people are more wedded to ideas than they are to other people. A plan seems to solve a problem, after all. Letting go of it means your problem doesn’t seem to have an answer any more.
There’s an old story of a kid who saved his town from flooding when the dam cracked by sticking his finger in the dam. Great, plugged the hole, saved the town, but what was the plan for after that? When the kid got tired, his finger wiggled, a bit of water escaped… A lot of plans are like that. They’re fingers stuck into dam holes. And sometimes the finger isn’t big enough, or the person can’t stand there long enough, or nobody has a plan beyond that since the finger seems to be working. The dam starts to leak or just gives way. Then what?
In art, things go off on directions you hadn’t planned all the time. Sculptures you envisioned one way won’t do that, they do something else (Simran). Something you try doesn’t work at all (Patternmaker — a sculpture with a great idea that didn’t quite work, so I’m taking that same idea and doing it differently). Characters have minds of their own and won’t go where you are pushing them to go. Sure, you learn from your mistakes, but only if you’re willing to let go of the plan and look at what happened as objectively as you can.
I’m a planner. When we went to Orlando for the first time and Disney World wanted to know where we wanted to have dinner in six months, Mark was flummoxed (he can plan and in great detail, but in his personal life tends to be more spontaneous). I was excited by the idea that I could already know where I was having dinner in six months, so I could look forward to it. My sculptures are made through a very contemplative, gradual process, each step planned and performed carefully. I’m usually working toward deadlines a month or even a year or more in the future, which suits me fine. I was the nerd who did her homework right away and read ahead in the book, partially because I enjoy learning and partially because not crowding my deadlines seems to be in my DNA.
So when something makes that awful “SPROING! GRRRRRR! BOING!” noise, and a plan sits before me giving off puffs of smoke, it’s a challenge. What I’ve finally figured out is that in that moment, the first step is to let go. Let go of what I expected, even counted on, to happen. Then I can look at what I’ve got to work with. Somebody once told me that no one ever got anywhere he wanted to be by starting off from where he thought he was. You have to start from where you are, with what you have, as who you are. If you can manage it, you might be able to make something you really like from what you actually have. I haven’t perfected the technique, but I’m working on it.